Cover image of "Wool," an example of outstanding science fiction

Looking for outstanding science fiction? Here’s a great one.

At its best, sf possesses the power to grab you by the throat and force you to confront questions you’d long thought buried in adolescence — questions about the meaning of life and the quest for the perfect society. Wool does that. It’s a truly outstanding piece of work by a recent entrant to the sf world that explores life in the confines of an underground civilization.

It is several hundred years in Earth’s future, and the surface of the planet has become unlivable. The remnants of humanity, mere thousands of them, live below-ground in a 144-story structure — the Silo — that is governed by a rigid set of rules, protocols, beliefs, and expectations. The inhabitants are divided into segregated, functional castes distinguished by color-coded overalls, monitored from above by a Mayor, a Sheriff, and the head of IT. This totalitarian order is intended to prevent the recurrence of an uprising that nearly destroyed the community at some time in the past. Then, the Silo’s chief law-enforcement officer, the Sheriff, challenges the most fundamental law of the Silo and opts to go to the surface to join the remains of his wife, who was banished into the toxic winds that howl overhead. The community’s belief system is shaken, opening up the possibilities of change.

Wool: Omnibus Edition (Silo 1-5) by Hugh Howey ★★★★★

A fully imagined future in this outstanding science fiction novel

The world of the Silo is fully imagined, and its inhabitants are believably fleshed out. Though the writing style is flat, the complexity of the plot and the fine details of the setting make up for that deficiency. The suspense becomes mind-bending and remains so until the very end. Wool is as suspenseful as any well-crafted thriller.

This book was originally published as a series of five novellas, the first of which is titled Wool, but they’re all available as the single 550-page novel of the same title reviewed here. In the future, I hope to review the six-book prequel to Wool.

Wool is a product of the newly emerging field of original online publishing. The author, Hugh Howey, began the project with the release on Amazon of a short story (“Wool”) that set the stage. Extensions to the tale came later when the work became wildly popular online. Now, Howey has signed a $500,000 contract solely for the book to be published in print. He has also sold film rights to the series, with Hollywood directors lining up to manage the screen adaptation.

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